The African Union Commission (AUC) has impressed upon the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) to play an active role in propagating free movement of African citizens across the continent people as well as the use of the African passport.
“Benefits of free movement of persons, goods and services far outweigh the real and potential security and economic challenges that may be perceived or generated,” stressed AUC Director of Political Affairs, Dr. Khabele Matlosa during the Committee Sittings at the PAP precincts in Midrand, South-Africa.
Dr. Matlosa was updating members of the PAP Committee on Trade, Customs and Immigration on the progress made so far since the launch of the African Passport in July, 2016 and the work on the draft protocol to allow free movement of Africans across the continent.
He said PAP through its committee on Trade, Customs and Immigration had a critical role to play in promoting the African Passport and free movement of persons across Africa especially by participating in the consultations that were aimed at developing the African Union protocol on free movement.
“The draft Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Right of Establishment is at an advanced stage and several consultations on the protocol will be held throughout 2017 before it is presented to the January 2018 Summit for adoption,” said Dr. Matlosa.
He said the new protocol was expected to come into force simply upon adoption by the heads of state and not require 15 ratifications by member countries as it is expected with all other protocols.
The AU Director of Political Affairs said PAP members had an important role to play in lobbying their countries to support adoption of the protocol at the 2018 AU summit adding that advocacy for the protocol adoption must start at PAP and spread to all the AU five regions and to the national parliaments.
“PAP may consider convening a special session to kick-start its efforts of popularising the African Passport and the forthcoming protocol on free movement,” said Dr. Matlosa.
He said although PAP had not yet accorded legislative powers, the continental parliament could still be useful in propagating the African passport and the draft protocol on free movement through formulation of model laws, in collaboration with the AUC and other AU organs, to advance AU’s agenda of unity, integration and solidarity.
Dr. Matlosa added that after adoption of the protocol, PAP; as Chairperson of the African Governance Architecture, would be expected to play its oversight role and ensure that the African Passport was rolled out in member countries and the adopted protocol on free movement was domesticated.
Commenting on the benefits of free movement of African citizens across the continent, the AUC Director of Political Affairs said the initiative was critical for deepening continental integration, advance people’s rights and pave way for a VISA-free Africa.
Dr. Matlosa informed the PAP members that the AUC was currently working with the International Civil Aviation Organisation to develop an African e-passport that is acceptable internationally to allow its use beyond Africa.